General News and Media Releases

22 August 2017:  AfriForum, Dr David Klatzow announce origin of Knysna fires

The civil rights organisation AfriForum today released a report that sets out the origin as well as the cause of the devastating Knysna fires. The report was drafted by the forensic scientist Dr David Klatzow, who was commissioned by AfriForum to undertake a thorough investigation of these fires in Knysna. The fires in Mossel Bay, Pezula and Plettenberg Bay are also discussed in the report.

Klatzow found among other things that one of the fires was caused by a fire that smouldered for a few weeks after lightning had struck a part of the indigenous forest.

AfriForum has already discussed the findings in the report with Ms Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape, at a meeting and furthermore wrote a letter to the Western Cape Government, asking for a commission of inquiry to look into the findings.

Ernst Roets, Deputy CEO of AfriForum, says that the organisation has an interest in this matter, as AfriForum plays a key role as a pressure group in civil society.

“It is important that the truth prevails and that justice is done,” Roets said.

Fires that are discussed in the report include:

  1. The eastern fire in Knysna: Here it is indicated that a fire incidentally started in a forested area known as Dam-se-Bos. Arson is not suspected.
  2. The western fire in Knysna: The fire originated in the Elandskraal area (see graphics attached) and was caused by lightning on 12 April 2017. The fire smouldered for a number of weeks in a portion of the indigenous forest, and weather conditions – including strong winds and hot air – fuelled this fire on 7 June 2017.
  3. The fires in the western part of the Knysna Lagoon which caused damage to Brenton-on-Sea and the area next to Buffels Bay, were a result of the Elandskraal fire.
  4. The fires at Pezula were a result of the fires at Dam-se-Bos and Elandskraal. The Elandskraal fire jumped across the western part of the Knysna Lagoon to Pezula.
  5. The Plettenberg Bay fires: The fires at Dam-se-Bos and Pezula spread to Plettenberg Bay. However, there were also two other fires in the area caused by a tree in a plantation. The tree fell on an Eskom power line and a fire started. Another fire was accidentally started by a resident in an informal settlement.
  6. The Mossel Bay fires: These fires were started on purpose. The police refused to investigate the allegations of arson that were lodged with the local AfriForum branch.

Thanks to Afriforum for the information.

14 August 2017: KNYSNA FIRES STARTED BY “HUMAN ACTIVITY” – Knysna Municipal Fire Chief

KNYSNA NEWS – The Knysna Municipal Fire Chief, Clinton Manuel, Municipal Manager, Kam Chetty and Executive Mayor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies presented the cause of the devastating fires that spread through the area on 7 June to members of the media today, Monday 14 August.

7 people were killed during the Knysna fires and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Hundreds more were severely damaged.

Manuel presented the vast scientific evidence to the media and said: “Looking at the evidence scientifically, evidence points to the origin of the fire as being on a clearing site in Elandskraal. 

“Specific patterns of the burn scars on a farm, show a definite V-pattern that indicates with a high degree of certainty the site where the fire started. Just below this scar we have found evidence of man-made fire.

“Evidence further shows that it is this fire that spread due to the weather patterns of 7 June. 

“I can confirm that the cause of the fire being an Act of God is dispelled,” added Manuel.

“We cannot say that this fire was started as a criminal act of arson, in other words, deliberately. This investigation and conclusion is up to the South African Police Services.”

Before the start of the presentation, Mayor Bouw-Spies thanked the nation for their continued support of Greater Knysna and for keeping its residents in their thoughts and prayers.

“Following the fires we needed to decide whether we recreate what was there before or if we do things completely differently. We have chosen to respond to the disaster by finding innovative ways of becoming a disaster-wise community,” said the mayor.

“Some of the biggest culprits for the intensity of the fire were Invasive Plant Material. The Knysna Municipality plans to use that exact material to build labour intensive, cost effective fire resistant housing.”

She added that the fire has left the area with bare slopes that are extremely susceptible to erosion. “We’ve acquired erosion control materials that are made from the fibres of invasive plants and already these geo-textiles are being installed by municipal staff in the erosion hot spots.”

According to Chetty, the Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille’s office has set up the Garden Route Rebuild Initiative to support the rebuilding of the region. 

Preliminary estimates, to address the infrastructure of disaster damage, totals R496.3 million for the entire region.

Cost estimates for Knysna alone is:
• Health – R 1, 256 million
• Agriculture – R40 million
• Human Settlements – R44,920 million
• Local Government – R91 573 175
• Environmental affairs – R134.89 million

“Much of this funding must still be raised and applications are being made to various government departments for assistance,” explained Chetty.

Chetty applauded Manuel for his very comprehensive report as well as the time in which the report has been compiled.

Information courtesy of Knysna Municipality. – Knysna/Plett Herald

Act of God ruled out in #KnysnaFires

MEDIA RELEASE
Embargo: Immediate
DATE: 14 August 2017
Act of God ruled out in #KnysnaFires
The Knysna Municipal Fire Chief, Clinton , Manager, Kam Chetty and Executive Mayor,
Eleanore Bouw-Spies presented the cause of the devastating fires that spread through the area on 7 June to various members of the media today, 14 August.
Manuel presented the vast scientific evidence to the media and saying: “Looking at the evidence scientifically, evidence points to the origin of the fire as being on a clearing site in Elandskraal.
Specific patterns of the burn scars on a farm, shows a definite V pattern that indicates with a high degree of certainty the site where the fire started. Just below this scar we have found evidence of man-made fire.
“Evidence further shows that it is this fire that spread due to the weather patterns of 7 June. I can confirm that the cause of the fire being an Act of God is dispelled. We cannot say that this fire was started as a criminal act of arson, in other words deliberately, this investigation and conclusion is up to the South African Police Services.”
Before the start of the presentation the mayor thanked the nation for their continued support of Greater Knysna and for keeping its residents in their thoughts and prayers.
“Following the fires we needed to decide whether we recreate what was there before or if we do things completely differently. We have chosen to respond to the disaster by finding innovative ways of becoming a disaster-wise community.
“Some of the biggest culprits for the intensity of the fire were Invasive Plant Material. The
Knysna Municipality plans to use that exact material to build labour intensive, cost effective fire resistant housing,” said the mayor.
She added that the fire has left the area with bare slopes that are extremely susceptible to erosion. “We’ve acquired erosion control materials that are made from the fibres of invasive plants and already these geo-textiles are being installed by municipal staff in the erosion hot spots,” she said.
According to Chetty the Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille’s office has set up the Garden
Route Rebuild Initiative to support the rebuilding of the region. Preliminary estimates, to address the infrastructure of disaster damage totals R496.3 million for the entire region.

Cost estimates for Knysna alone is:
Health – R 1, 256 million
Agriculture – R40 million
Human Settlements – R44,920 million
Local Government – R91 573 175
Environmental affairs – R134.89 million
“Much of this funding must still be raised and applications are being made to various
government departments for assistance,” explained Chetty.
Chetty applauded Manuel for his very comprehensive report as well as the time in which the report has been compiled. “I know that the Portuguese Fires that started just days after the Greater Knysna Fires has yet to be completed and for this I must thank our Fire Chief.”
He further said that Manuel had been attending fires investigations since 1993. “During this time he was tasked with finding the cause and the origin of fires such as the large Cape Town Fires in Camps Bay, Strandfontein, Lakeside and the Southern Peninsula fires.
“This report presented today included evidence and opinions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and several other scientists and I must say that I am extremely impressed with their methodology,” concluded
The Fire Chief’s scientific and technical presentation, presented to the media earlier today will be uploaded onto the Knysna Municipal Website by close of day today.

ENDS

Links:   

http://www.knysna.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Act-of-God-ruled-out-in-KnysnaFires.pdf

http://www.knysna.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Knysna-Fire-report-presentation-.pdf

 

___________________________________________________________________
CAPTION
Knysna Municipality Communications Department
P O Box 21. Knysna. 6570. Western Cape. South Africa
Tel +27 (0)44 302 6300 (switchboard) or 302 6471 (direct)
Fax +27 (0)86 215 4818 e-mail communications@knysna.gov.za

 

Amateur Radio Mesh Network Brought into Mix as Volunteers Assist in South African Fire Disaster

06/13/2017An intense winter storm and severe drought in South Africa’s Western Cape region earlier this month resulted in devastating fires that ravaged parts of the Southern Cape Area, with the city of Knysna being the worst affected. Some fires were reported still burning, but contained, this week, after winds subsided over the weekend.

John Terblanche, ZS1I, in Mossel Bay, who administers the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN) Mossel Bay Mesh Network, said the call for volunteers went out on June 8, after cellphone, Internet and landline telephone service was disrupted in many areas. A half-dozen volunteers reported, an emergency net was activated, and message traffic was handled via the AREDN as well as on HF, VHF, and UHF.

Disaster communication links remained active until normal telecommunication service was restored on June 11, but the AREDN remained on high alert, Terblanche said.

The fire disaster resulted in several fatalities, the destruction of more than 430 dwellings, and thousands of evacuees remain displaced. Disaster relief efforts continue. — Thanks to Johan Terblanche, ZS1I via Southgate Amateur Radio News

– ARRL News

 

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Emergency/Disaster After Action Report: AREDN – Mossel Bay Mesh Network Service

Western Cape South Africa

After Action Report: AREDN – Mossel Bay Mesh Network Service

PLEASE NOTE THIS REPORT RELATES TO THE FOLLOWING LOCAL MUNICIPALITIES IN THE EDEN DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY:

Bitou

George

Knysna (Include Sedgefield, Karatara and Rheenendal)

Mossel Bay

Start date of Severe Weather and Severe Bush-fire activity/event: 7 June 2017

Description of Activity: Mossel Bay Mesh Network activation for Severe Weather and Bush-fires in the Eden District Municipality of South Africa.

Duration of Amateur Radio Activity: 7 – 11 June 2017

Amateur Radio Operators Participating: ZS2I, ZS1Q, ZS1ZS, ZS1HB, ZS1I and ZR1AOC

Describe served participation (Briefly and not full detail): Activate Amateur Radio JOC to co-ordinate operations. Assist local residents to evacuate. Move from house to house to ensure residents are safe and inquire if they need any assistance. Gather observation reports from AR Operators iro spreading and extent of fires, gather weather and damage reports. Activate AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network when Internet, cellphones, landlines and electricity supply were down (periodically) Updates provided periodically on 145.600 Repeater, WhatsApp, Twitter, Internet Email and Mesh Network when Internet, cellphones, landlines and electricity supply were up and running. HF/UHF was used as backup communications.

Number of Amateur Radio Operators participating: 6 (+2 later stage)

Describe goals of activity, both for served agency and serving group: Local radio amateurs gathered severe weather, bush-fire, damage and weather observation reports and information and submitted them to ZS1I, Amateur Radio JOC Control. ZS1I then relayed reports/observations in a timely manner to the Public, NGO’s, Local Authorities and Fire Services via WhatsApp, Twitter and Email. When commercial communications and power failures occurred the Mossel Bay Mesh Network was used to store and

forward gathered severe weather, bush-fire, damage and weather observation reports until such time as it could be forwarded to the Public, NGO’s, Local Authorities and Fire Services. Requests to gather specific information were sent from the Mossel Bay Amateur Radio JOC to participating radio amateurs in the local area. Many requests were also received from a wide variety of roll players in the Knysna area, to many toe mention here. One example: A request was received from the Knysna Municipality for people to assist fire fighters with cellphone airtime and data. Mossel Bay JOC Control immediately send out a request to three large cell phone companies with the support of the public and VWS Wildfires to donate airtime to firefighters in the Knysna area. CellC donated R40k in airtime while Vodacom supplied thousands of rands of equipment and airtime. (Value amount unknown) These donations enabled fire fighters to communicate countrywide when cellphone services were up. A big thank you to @CellC @Vodacom, Tweeps and many others who responded to the request from Mossel Bay Amateur Radio JOC Control for air-time and data for firefighters. As mentioned Supra there were many requests for assistance to many to mention here as a result of the extend of the disaster.

Did the event fulfill the goals? YES!

What went well? Call up procedures went well. The following platforms worked exceptionally well when active and activated: AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network – all aspects even when all other commercial communications and power failed, Twitter, WhatsApp, Internet Email and Mossel Bay145.600 repeater. One of the big plus points were the fact that written back-up copies with timeline were instantly available from Data and Record Storage Facilities. The support and interlinking of local radio amateurs, public, NGO’s, WCG, Private Sector, Private Volunteer Fire Services and Knysna Municipality were exceptional and need to be commended.

Areas needing improvement: Of the utmost importance is communications amongst and between other amateur radio organizations/clubs/emergency communication networks. It was clear from this event that the one did not know what the other was doing. This was clearly evident in emails received and posts on amateur radio forums. I will not post further particulars here as not to embarrass those involved. It shows that some out of district radio amateurs should be briefed thoroughly before operating or assisting in effected areas. This should be rectified immediately. I recommend that a local contact person be assigned for this purpose in all future emergencies and disasters.

A procedural flow chart need to be draft and added to every radio amateurs GoKit. Procedures, telephone numbers, email addresses and other important information to be included on the flow chart.

Additional Emergency Communications training is needed as well as how to use the Mossel Bay Mesh Network Services in times of emergencies/disaster. More frequent Emergency Communications Training exercises essential. Simplicity need to be looked at. The disparate radio systems in use by all roll players need to be addressed and this is not the first time this issue impaired and interrupted services. This disparity issue prevented effected communications during this event. I would suggest that Eden District Municipality/Disaster Management considers the use of AREDN Mesh Networking as a backup system during emergencies and disasters to not only solve this disparity but also in the event that all commercial communications services fail, which was the case on several occasions during this event. If all else fails AREDN will not!!

Repeater coverage not optimal and the non existence of a repeater in the Knysna area need to be addressed by those responsible for the relevant repeaters asap.

The 145.700 George repeater need again to be linked to the 145.600 Danabay repeater to extend coverage. On the 14 June 2017 at 16h45 a test was conducted using this repeater after yet another cellphone, Internet and landline outage. Thanks to Peter ZS1PHD and Trevor ZS1TR who responded and provided audio and fire reports as well as confirmation that commercial communication services were down once again.

The AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network need to be extended asap towards other parts of the town and district in the event that all communication systems fail in future. Funds are needed to accomplish this and we should look at sponsors, donation, requests and the involvement of local authorities

Lessons Learned: Never ever get involved in outside disasters if your own town/district is threatened by severe weather and bush-fires. Thankfully this was not the case with Mossel Bay and George Radio Amateurs who served their own communities with distinction. Your community needs you locally and they are your first priority. No need for us to all race towards another area or town if your own town is under threat. A few “outside” radio amateurs assisted in the Knysna area and they are thanked for their service in this regard.

Repeaters is only as good as their coverage but should never be the only communications medium available to responders or radio amateurs. HF Radio as always should be used as a last resort. In this event Repeaters and HF communications were really of no use other than a last resort back-up.

The most effective communication means were:

Cellphones, WhatsApp, Twitter, Internet, Email, SMS and Knysna Municipality Cellphone Application when there were no power failures or commercial outages.

AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network using Citadel Email, MsbMesh How to Web Pages, Mumble Voice and Text Communications , SFTP Server info storage and the Mossel Bay Amateur Radio JOC Control/Conference Room as well as the 145.600 Danabay Repeater was used when there were power failures and commercial outages.

Social media played a vital roll in communicating info to the Public, Media, Corporate Business and who ever needed information. In my opinion Social Media saved many lives during this event and has become part and parcel of emergencies/disasters today.

Press Releases: Only 1 (one) – The AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network released only one press release regarding this event. It was forwarded to Southgate Amateur Radio News on the 12 June 2017. Copy attached.

General Comments: We will never know the full extent of the humanitarian aid supplied to and by the people of South Africa. However it is clear that the sociological and psychological effects will be the worse to deal with. Radio Amateurs even those not mentioned here rendered a great service to mankind during this severe weather and bush-fire/disaster event. Heartfelt Condolences goes to all the families who lost loved ones as a result of this event. May all those affected receive consolation and peace during this trying times!

Ideas for the future: An AREDN emergency communication exercise in the Southern Cape will be most useful in the near future to even improve our skills further. A full debriefing at the next Suid Kaap Amateur Radio Club meeting will also contribute immensely and are recommended.

Thanks and Appreciation: Where do one start? There are so many that I would like to thank personally but then I will need to add another 10 pages to this report. Therefor:


A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL INVOLVED. IT WAS A PRIVILEGE AND A HONOR TO SERVE AND WORK WITH OUR LOCAL COMMUNITIES IN TIMES OF NEED. I SALUTE YOU ALL!!

This report was compiled by:  J. Terblanche ZS1I, AREDN Amateur Radio JOC Control, Mossel Bay, South Africa.

Date and Time of this report: Tuesday, 20 June 2017, 12:12 SAST

END OF REPORT

 

Media Release:

 

Thank you!

Below is the information you sent to editor@southgatearc.org:

Name: Johan Terblanche

Callsign: ZS1I

Email: sawois05@gmail.com

Story title: SOUTHERN CAPE RADIO AMATEURS HEED THE CALL FOR ASSISTANCE AS SOUTH AFRICAN FIRES RAGE

Story: An intense winter storm and severe drought experienced in the Western Cape resulted in devastating fires ravaging parts of the Southern Cape Area with Knysna being the worst effected. As of the 7 June 2017 till today fires are still burning in this part of the world. The call for assistance for radio amateurs to assist came on the 8 June 2017 when cellphone, Internet and landline telephones went down in many areas. The following radio amateurs responded and reported to the AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network: ZS2I, ZS1Q, ZS1ZS, ZS1HB, ZR1AOC and ZS1I. An AREN and Amateur Radio JOC was established on the mesh network. Messages were relayed on HF, VHF/UHF and the AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network Group. The above radio amateurs worked around the clock to assist their respected local communities. Amateur Disaster Communications links remained active until normal communications were restored. The AREN and JOC was relinquished on the 11 June 2017 but we still remain on high alert. The disaster aftermath continues with 7 deaths, 439 houses destroyed and thousands of displaced survivors. Disaster Relief continue unabated. Amateur Radio once again showed that when all else fails amateur radio will not fail.

J. Terblanche ZS1I
AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network

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Image: Twitter and Social Media

GroundUp: Knysna fire’s wake-up call

The mayor explains the lessons learnt. By Melanie Gosling for GROUNDUP.

A major problem fighting the massive fires that ravaged Knysna was the lack of communications and electricity outages, said local councillor Mark Willemse.

Landlines were down and Cell C and MTN were not operating. Vodacom was working.

“Comms were an issue. We used SMSes and loud hailers. One thing we can work on better and can change is communications,” Willemse said at a report-back meeting in the town on Tuesday.

Another problem was that the Joint Operating Centre, co-ordinating the fire-fighting and evacuation operations, had been without electricity.

First published by GroundUp
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SOUTHERN CAPE RADIO AMATEURS HEED THE CALL FOR ASSISTANCE AS SOUTH AFRICAN FIRES RAGE.  (Wednesday, 7 June 2017 @ 14h30)

An intense winter storm and severe drought experienced in the Western Cape resulted in devastating fires ravaging parts of the Southern Cape Area with Knysna being the worst effected. As of the 7 June 2017 till today fires are still burning in this part of the world. The call for assistance for radio amateurs to assist came on the 8 June 2017 when cellphone, Internet and landline telephones went down in many areas. The following radio amateurs responded and reported to the AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network: ZS2I, ZS1Q, ZS1ZS, ZS1HB, ZR1AOC and ZS1I. An AREN and Amateur Radio JOC was established on the mesh network. Messages were relayed on HF, VHF/UHF and the AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network Group. The above radio amateurs worked around the clock to assist their respected local communities. Amateur Disaster Communications links remained active until normal communications were restored. The AREN and JOC was relinquished on the 11 June 2017 but we still remain on high alert. The disaster aftermath continues with 7 deaths, 439 houses destroyed and thousands of displaced survivors. Disaster Relief continue unabated. Amateur Radio once again showed that when all else fails amateur radio will not fail.

J. Terblanche ZS1I
AREDN: Mossel Bay Mesh Network

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Exciting News: Mesh Network Established (Wednesday, 19 May 2017 @ 14h00)

EXCITING NEWS!! – In November 2016, a non-profit community organization called Mossel Bay Initiative (MBI)  started a pilot program for the Mossel Bay free  Wi-Fi mesh network. A “mesh network” is a system of inexpensive router nodes that beam Wi-Fi around above the streets for everyone to use, and even if the internet connection or electricity goes down, the mesh allows communication within its bounds. So while you can’t watch TV News over a closed mesh network, you can still communicate with people in your vicinity—which is obviously crucial in emergency and community based situations.

A number of pilot mesh nodes are currently under test in Heiderand, Mossel Bay. If there is enough interest the Mossel Bay Initiative (MBI) will establish and maintain a wireless mesh network (Mossel Bay Mesh Network) (@msbmesh #msbmesh) whereby the community will have free access to a range of modern information and communication services. These services include telephony (Voice over Internet Protocol), instant messaging, emergency communications network, electronic mail, web access, multimedia services and neighbourhood watch and service delivery information and other services, to many to mention here. More information to be made available soon via this network.  It is now back to testing and installation and expansion of the Wi-Fi mesh network.  Remember to come back regularly to this site for  more news on this exciting Mossel Bay community project.

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